Like matcha lattes, cleansing oils and wearing street-style lycra, CrossFit has taken the world by storm with its significant health benefits. Since its inception in the U.S in 2013, the exercise program and has grown rapidly and now nations like Kazakhstan, Mongolia and even Fiji have these specialised gyms.
CrossFit is a strength and conditioning discipline which combines weight training, distance running and gymnastics into a physically demanding work out. Athletes perform a variety of diverse tasks including, jumping, climbing, rowing and powerlifting, and in some cases, will use unique equipment like ropes, tires and sandbags to make it the action packed activity that originally attracted marines and law enforcement personnel. Power and strength are central to CrossFit and building muscle, as well as stamina and balance, makes Olympic weightlifting an attractive sport for those involved in the discipline.
Rocky Dean-Shoji is a CrossFit instructor in Sydney and has recently returned from an intensive month weightlift training in China. He says that weightlifting is a common venture for CrossFit athletes due to its reoccurrence in the exercise regime, the supportive team of people in the industry and the overall addictive nature of hefting.
“Weightlifting is the hardest element of CrossFit to muster,” Dean-Shoji says. “When people progress in CrossFit, they tend to invest in Olympic weightlifting, as it gives you base strength and power.”
“If you’re proficient in the clean and jerk or snatch, your ability in CrossFit is enhanced. You’re able to develop power and you can turn your muscles on when required and produce force in a split second.”
Why so many women are across CrossFit
CrossFit is largely popular amongst women. While men still outnumber their female counterparts in the International CrossFit Games Open, the fast growth in female entries each year suggests that women could soon dominate the fitness. There’s no distinct reason why the sport is so popular among women – particularly for those above the age of 40, the most popular age group. Some industry officials have speculated that it requires qualities that come naturally to women, like being more health conscious and requiring a specific kind of strength and focus, and that it’s a type of fitness that builds strength without ‘bulking’ the traditional female physique. Or it could be as simple as, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and the more women in the space of CrossFit makes it a more inclusive environment for other women join. However, with the increase of women in CrossFit, also means that Olympic weightlifting is seeing more women take the bar.
Australia’s Olympic female representative, Tia Toomey is a prime example of this emerging culture. Not only will she be competing for gold in Rio come August, but also Toomey comes from a CrossFit background and owns a specialised gym in Queensland. The humble 22-year-old told Zela that the small number of women in weightlifting eliminates competition and makes it an attractive venture for those looking to excel.
"... weightlifting is at a level for women where participants could actually achieve a lot more and go further."
“Women have been in weightlifting for a very short time, when you consider the long history of men dominating the sport. So on the competition side of things, weightlifting is at a level for women where participants could actually achieve a lot more and go further.
“I’m not saying that it’s easy, and the more that women get involved the more positively their training intensifies and they get stronger. But for those who have a passion for it have an opportunity to represent their gyms and their state.”
Weightlifting only became a part of Toomey’s life when she considered it a weakness in her CrossFit regime. She says that she had only been doing it “for five minutes”, but received overwhelming support from trainers and peers who encouraged her to take it up professionally. During her career weightlifting and CrossFitting and even being awarded the ‘second fittest woman in the world’ at the Reebok CrossFit Games, 2015, Toomey was somehow still too modest to dream of being an Olympian.
“I defiantly didn’t think I would be an Olympian and that weightlifting would be something I would be in it for”
“I defiantly didn’t think I would be an Olympian and that weightlifting would be something I would be in it for,” she told Zela. “I’ve had some really nice feedback and I’m seriously honoured to help people. If I can have a positive influence on people to go outside their comfort zone and try something new that could benefit them in the future, it’s an amazing feeling to know that you’re inspiring people, just but running your life and doing what you love.”
As a CrossFit trainer, Toomey is thrilled to see high levels of participation from women. She says that it’s a great sport to watch women constantly trying to better themselves.
“It’s such an amazing thing to watch someone first come in, who is intimidated and unfamiliar with the environment, and then a couple of months in, you see them becoming more confident. You can visibly see the progress in their body and their confidence and it’s such a journey for them and you, and it’s a really emotional journey.”